Fiers not perfect, but still stellar in win over Cincy

August 8, 2012

Postgame

> I missed pretty much all of today’s game, but I have to say I knew what I was going to be missing. The Brewers defeated the Reds today, 3-1, in yet another amazing performance by Mike Fiers. I know I’ve said this about nearly all of his starts, but I think today was the best performance of his young career. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Brewers jumped on Reds ace Johnny Cueto right away in the first inning. Aramis Ramirez stayed hot and smacked a two-run shot into left field to give the Brewers the early lead.

Cueto did settle down after that inning, turning in a good start (7 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 9 K). But, after that first inning, Fiers never looked back either, and out-pitched an opponent who has been tough on the Brewers recently.

Fiers threw eight stellar innings while giving up one run on three hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out seven. The eight innings are a new career-high in innings pitched for Fiers. He also lowered his ERA to 1.80, which is just flat-out remarkable.

But the story tonight was Fiers’ bid for perfection. He needed just 66 pitches to get through the first six innings, which were flawless. But, Zack Cozart led off the seventh inning with a double to break up the perfecto. Two batters later, Brandon Phillips drove him in with a sacrifice fly, which wound up being the only blemish on Fiers’ line.

Fiers ran into a bit of trouble in the eighth as well. He started off the inning by striking out Scott Rolen, but then gave up a single to Xavier Paul. Two batters later, Ryan Hanigan hit a single to put runners on first and third with two outs. But, Fiers did what he’s done so well all year: get out of the tough jams. He struck out Ryan Ludwick to end the threat in the eighth.

The Analysis

> There really isn’t much more you can say about Fiers at this point, other than he’s turned himself into a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. You can say all you want about the over-hyped Bryce Harper (who is now hitting under .260, mind you), but my vote would go to a pitcher with a sub-2.00 ERA, rather than some overrated 19 year-old outfielder who’s only in the conversation because of his age.

Anyway, I decided to check out some scouting reports regarding Fiers today to see what the prospect experts were saying about him. What I found interesting is that his scouting report is nothing compared to the stats he’s putting up. But I guess that shouldn’t come as a surprise- Fiers has a mid-to-high 80’s fastball, a solid cutter, and two plus off-speed pitches. That usually makes for a good fly-ball pitcher, but that isn’t what Fiers is doing: he’s being a dominant strikeout pitcher at the Major League level.

The News

> Ron Roenicke once again talked about the frustration he’s having with Francisco Rodriguez’s role in the bullpen. We know, Ron. We know.

> As I mentioned in today’s pregame post, Brooks Conrad was designated for assignment by the Rays today. The man of the .000 batting average wasn’t going to last long there anyway.

The Numbers Game

> The theory I’ve been talking about the past few days finally occurred today: Jim Henderson closed out the game. He preserved Fiers’ two-run lead with a scoreless 1-2-3 inning, including a strikeout. Henderson is throwing the ball the best in the bullpen by far right now, so hopefully we see him in these situations more often.

> Jonathan Lucroy had been slumping since his return from the disabled list, with his batting average dropping from .345 to .327. But, he went 2-for-3 today to bring the BA back up to .329.

> The Brewers’ third run came on Jean Segura’s first RBI as a Brewer (and in the Majors overall), which was a groundout off Cueto in the seventh inning. Segura is still looking for his first hit.

> And that’s about it. I leave you with tomorrow’s match-up. So let’s just say it’s a good thing the Brewers took the first two games.

Mat Latos (10-3, 3.94 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (3-8, 5.57 ERA)

 

Advertisements

Bullpen hangs on for much-needed win

August 7, 2012

Postgame

> Finally, a game I can enjoy covering. It’s been too long. The Brewers defeated the Reds somewhat handily today, 6-3. This snapped a three-game losing skid courtesy of the Cardinals, and was a strong start to an important series, even if the Brewers aren’t contending.

I wasn’t high on Yovani Gallardo’s chances coming into tonight’s start. He had struggled his two starts before his last one, and, despite performing well in his last one, it came against the Astros. Plus, Yo has struggled against the Reds at Miller Park in his career. But, he jammed that down my throat with a great start, going seven innings while giving up a run on six hits. He walked three and struck out four. Gallardo had  to dance around danger multiple times, but it was one of his better outings this year as far as pitching in the clutch. He improved to 10-8 on the year and his ERA fell to 3.79.

Meanwhile, the offense backed him late. Early on, it looked like the Brewers were in for another rough go against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo. Coming into tonight, the Brewers at a .139 average against Arroyo in three games this year. That stat held true until the fifth inning, when the Brewers finally solved the puzzle. Martin Maldonado led off the inning with a double. After Jean Segura advanced him to third on a sacrifice fly (the throw actually hit Maldonado as he was sliding into third), Gallardo himself drove in the game’s first run. That was all the Brewers got that inning, but they added on massively later.

The Brewers hit three home runs off Arroyo in the sixth inning, which is what they should be doing to him all the time. Aramis Ramirez, who had been barking with Arroyo earlier in the game due to some beef that goes back a ways, hammered his 14th home run of the season. Corey Hart followed that up with a mammoth shot into the Harley Davidson deck (if you know Miller Park’s geography you know that’s pretty far). Then, after a single by Rickie Weeks, Maldonado hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball off the bat, but it just kept carrying until it was a two-run homer.

The only Reds tally came in the seventh on a Zack Cozart home run, which was the one blemish on Gallardo’s line.

Then, in the eighth, the bullpen appeared to be having one of its classic meltdowns. Jay Bruce led off the inning with a single off Francisco Rodriguez. One batter later, Scott Rolen hit a ground-rule double that put men on second and third with one out. After K-Rod walked Todd Frazier to load the bases, Ron Roenicke opted to go to the Brewers’ other struggling closer, John Axford. Ax promptly gave up an RBI single to Xavier Paul. Then, the Brewers were given a dash of luck. On a 3-2 pitch to Dioner Navarro, he hit into the right center gap, and it looked like it was going to be a bases-clearing double. But, right fielder Norichika Aoki saved the game with a sliding catch, and it turned into a sacrifice fly for Navarro. Axford then induced a Cozart pop-out to end the threat.

The Brewers tacked on one more on Maldonado’s RBI double in the bottom of the eighth. That allowed Axford to come back out for the ninth and record his first multi-inning save since 2010 (yes, all the way back to the Ken Macha era).

The Analysis

> Segura made his anticipated Brewers debut tonight, batting eighth and playing shortstop. It didn’t go well, as he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He saw eight pitches total, six of which were sliders that his nerves wouldn’t let him lay off of. He did have a productive at-bat to advance Maldo to third in the fifth, and he smashed a line drive to right field in the sixth, although Bruce had him played perfectly.

Segura didn’t look bad defensively, though. I was worried he’d pull some Yuni B’s in his debut, but that didn’t happen, thankfully.

I’m excited to see what Segura will do in the future for the Brewers. I have very high hopes for the kid who was the centerpiece of the Zack Greinke trade for the Brewers.

> I forgot to mention this last night, but Jim Henderson finally gave up a run. His ERA is now 1.93. Despite the small sample size, I consider him the most reliable reliever in our bullpen. Had Axford blown it tonight, my theory of Henderson closing may have became a reality.

The News

> Shaun Marcum will make his first rehab start for Class A Wisconsin on Thursday, which will be the first step for his comeback. Once he comes back, he’ll basically be auditioning for the free agent market or a late August trade, though.

> Cesar Izturis is headed to the Nationals, as he was claimed off waivers by them earlier today. That allowed the Brewers to call up Segura and get a look at him.

>And that’s about it. I leave you with tomorrow’s match-up, which should be a low-scoring contest, with each team’s best pitcher going:

Johnny Cueto (14-5, 2.52 ERA) vs. Mike Fiers (5-4, 1.88 ERA)


Despite lack of offense, Estrada, bullpen shut down Bucs

August 14, 2011

6:24p This game pretty much proved that it just isn’t possible for the Pirates to beat the Brewers, especially in Milwaukee.

Pirates-Brewers Wrap-Up

A second inning home run by Yuniesky Betancourt was all the Brewers pitching staff needed in a 1-0 win over the Pirates. Starter Marco Estrada held down the Bucs for five innings, in which he gave up no runs and one hit. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out five. Oddly enough, manager Ron Roenicke pulled him in the bottom of the fifth inning for a pinch-hitter, but that pinch-hitter was Zack Greinke, and all he did was a lay down a sacrifice bunt. But, Roenicke’s decision played out, I assume, how he expected it to even before the game started, because the bullpen shut out the Pirates for the remaining four innings.

Pirates starter Kevin Correia was actually pretty good, considering how many baserunners he allowed. He went 6 2/3 innings while giving up a run on seven hits. He walked three and struck out three. Correia could have been hit much harder, but the Brewers uncharacteristically struggled with runners in scoring position at home today. They left 10 guys on against Correia, which spared his already high ERA. But, coming into today, Correia was 10-2 on the road. He is now 10-3 with two of the three losses coming at Miller Park.

Anyway, back to the Brewers bullpen. Takashi Saito, LaTroy Hawkins, and Francisco Rodriguez combined for three shutout innings during which they only gave up one hit (the hit given up by Rodriguez). That set the stage for John Axford, who, as usual, made the ninth somewhat interesting.

Axford gave up a triple leading off the inning to Xavier Paul, and, from there, I was thinking that Axford’s save streak was over. But, with the infield in, he induced to groundball outs and kept the runner at third. After walking Garrett Jones, he struck out Neil Walker to end the game and give the Brewers a 7-0 record against the Bucs this year.

Estrada is clearly a starter.

After seeing his performance today, I realized that Estrada is obviously better as a starter. He just wasn’t getting it done in the bullpen, and came into today having given up at least a run in three consecutive appearances out of the ‘pen. But, today, he was better than all of his appearances since the All-Star break combined.

Betancourt goes deep on 0-2 count

There’s actually a significance to this. We all know that Betancourt is a free-swinging guy, but this stat really shocked me. Betancourt’s home run today marked the first time in his career that he went deep on an 0-2 count. Yep- the first time in 257 at-bats that reached 0-2 in his career. That’s kind of a scary stat, if you think about it, no matter how free-swinging a guy is.

Injury update on Gomez

Injured center fielder Carlos Gomez has started his road back after fracturing his left clavicle in Arizona on July 20 while making a highlight reel catch. He ran sprints and threw from 90 feet for the first time since the injury and is going to start hitting sometime next week. There is still no timetable for Gomez’s return, however.

Before his injury, Gomez in a center field platoon with Nyjer Morgan. Gomez typically got starts against left-handed pitching, while Morgan usually got the starts against right handers.

Up next for the Crew…

The Brewers will go for yet another sweep of the Pirates tomorrow. They’ll send Shaun Marcum (10-3, 3.62 ERA) to the mound. He received a no-decision against the Cardinals his last time out. Marcum has one career start against the Pirates, and that was back on April 13th, when he shut them out for seven innings.

The Pirates will counter with the resurging Charlie Morton (9-6, 3.56 ERA), who currently has a 17 inning scoreless streak going, which includes eight shutout innings of the Giants his last time out. Morton is 0-4 with an 8.31 ERA against the Brewers in his career, but he is a completely changed pitcher this year. If you don’t know his story, then read below. It’s actually sort of cool.

Morton had a horrible 2010 campaign- he went 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA. So, in the offseason, he decided to completely reinvent himself as a pitcher, and changed his arm slot to more of a 3/4 delivery, rather than the overhand motion he used to use. In fact, he pretty much copied the mechanics of Phillies’ ace Roy Halladay. If you watch the two pitchers’ mechanics side by side, it’s pretty tough to find any differences in them. The results, obviously, aren’t as good as Halladay’s, but Morton is having a far better season than he did last year.

Elsewhere around the division…

  • The Cubs are currently leading the Braves, 1-0, in the bottom of the third. That probably won’t last long, though. Especially if another Cubs player decides he wants to retire in the middle of a game. Anyway, the Cubs are 17.5 games back right now.
  • The Reds are beating the Padres, 4-0, in the bottom of the third as well. They are 10.5 games back, and have passed the Pirates to take third place in the division; at least for now.
  • The Cardinals are losing to the Rockies, 3-0, in a game that’s about to go into the fourth inning. The Cards are currently 4.5 games back, and I can’t tell you how huge that would be for the Brewers if they lose today.
  • The Astros and Dodgers start later tonight at 9:10. But really… Does anybody care what the Astros do at this point? That 38-81 mark pretty much defines how their season is going to end.

Box Score

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Pittsburgh Pirates 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
Milwaukee Brewers 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 X 1 8 0

Milwaukee Brewers

Player AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Corey Hart, RF 3 0 1 0 1 0 2 .273
Nyjer Morgan, CF 4 0 1 0 0 1 3 .320
Ryan Braun, LF 3 0 1 0 1 1 3 .323
Prince Fielder, 1B 3 0 1 0 1 0 2 .308
Casey McGehee, 3B 4 0 1 0 0 2 4 .238
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS 3 1 1 1 1 0 1 .270
Jerry Hairston, 2B 4 0 0 0 0 0 3 .255
Jonathan Lucroy, C 4 0 1 0 0 1 2 .284
Marco Estrada, P 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .300
a-Zack Greinke, PH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .194
b-Felipe Lopez, PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .215
Total 30 1 8 1 4 5 20

a-Hit a sacrifice bunt for Estrada in the 5th.

b-Grounded out for Hawkins in the 7th.

BATTING

2B: Estrada (1).

HR: Betancourt (9).

RBI: Betancourt (51).

Team RISP: 1-for-10.

Team LOB: 10.

BASERUNNING

SB: Braun (22).

Milwaukee Brewers

Player IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Marco Estrada (W, 3-7) 5.0 1 0 0 0 5 0 4.46
Takashi Saito (H, 7) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2.51
LaTroy Hawkins (H, 18) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.69
Francisco Rodriguez (H, 8) 1.0 1 0 0 0 2 0 2.89
John Axford (S, 34) 1.0 1 0 0 1 1 0 2.44

Pitches-strikes: Estrada 64-44, Saito 10-8, Hawkins 11-7, Rodriguez 14-12, Axford 21-13.

Groundouts-flyouts: Estrada 6-2, Saito 1-1, Hawkins 1-1, Rodriguez 0-1, Axford 2-0.

Batters faced: Estrada 16, Saito 3, Hawkins 3, Rodriguez 4, Axford 5.